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Iran Determined to Pursue Nuclear Technology

  • Melinda Smith

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told a United Nations conference Tuesday that his country is determined to pursue nuclear technology, which would include resuming the production of enriched uranium. The UN has begun a month-long examination of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, amid concerns about the nuclear intentions of Iran and North Korea. The treaty was first implemented in 1970, and has undergone periodic review, but as VOA's Melinda Smith reports, some believe it is now out of date and showing signs of wear.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty forbids non-nuclear states from acquiring nuclear weapons technology, and under its terms the world's five original signatories... the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia... pledged to give up their nuclear arsenals.

Pramit Mitra of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. says once the five major powers demonstrated a willingness to disarm, it was hoped that other newly emerging nuclear weapons countries would follow suit.

"That clearly hasn't happened. The nuclear stockpiles have gone down... but at the same time there is no roadmap from any of these major powers that they want to disarm," says Pramit Mitra.

In his opening address Monday before the UN General Assembly, Secretary General Kofi Annan singled out the United States and Russia as two major powers that should both do more to reduce their nuclear stockpiles.

"An important step would be for the former Cold War rivals to commit themselves... irreversibly... to further cuts in their arsenals, so that warheads number in the hundreds, not the thousands," says Mr. Annan.

While Israel, India and Pakistan are known to have nuclear weapons, they have never signed the non-proliferation treaty.

Pramit Mitra says, "What is lacking right now, I think, is trust. I think the U.S. in order to convince countries like India and Pakistan to sign on needs to show that it is willing to disarm."

But it is the nuclear programs now underway in North Korea and Iran that have consistently alarmed other nations. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says no country has the right to tell Iran what to do with its nuclear program. Iran has said it might resume some nuclear fuel activities despite an offer of trade incentives by the European Union.

At the UN conference in New York, Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi tried to reassure the representatives about Iran's motives saying, "Iran for its part is determined to pursue all legal areas of nuclear technology including enrichment exclusively for peaceful purposes and has been eager to offer assurances and guarantees that they remain permanently peaceful."

For some time, the United States and other countries have accused North Korea of possessing nuclear technology. Earlier this year North Korea finally declared that it has nuclear weapons.

Monday, during a news conference in Washington with the French Foreign Minister, Michel Barnier, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said there should be no doubt about the American willingness to deter a North Korean nuclear threat.

"The United States maintains significant... and I want to underline significant... deterrent capability of all kinds in the Asia-Pacific region. So I don't think there should be any doubt about our ability to deter whatever the North Koreans are up to," says Dr. Rice.

U.S. President George W. Bush has been harshly critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and said diplomatic negotiations should include North Korea's neighbors, especially China.

In what have been called 'the six party talks', the U.S., South Korea, China, Japan and Russia have tried to persuade North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. So far, the talks have been unsuccessful.

This week the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed El Baradei urged North Korea to return to the bargaining table. The earlier the better, he said.